DISCOVER - EXPLORE - EXPERIENCE
LAMU VOL. 2 APRIL 2017 Â· FREE COPY
THE ISLAND OF FESTIVALS
EAST COAST KITING
POLE POLE IN LAMU
GO CAMPING THIS EASTER
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
52 Leading Holiday Homes Book your next holiday with us!
Ngong Hills | Nanyuki | Naivasha | North Coast | South Coast
W: www.holidayhomeskenya.com E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: +254 (0) 722 360 111 @holidayhomeskenya 2
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
Forodhani House, Shella Beach, Lamu, Kenya www.forodhanihouse.com For reservations: email@example.com EXPERIENCE Tel : +254 718 407 480, +33 612 548 184
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH LAMU Drawn in by Lamu’s timeless appeal I’ve always been a little in love with Lamu. I had only been dating my boyfriend a couple of months when he tentatively mooted a holiday in Kenya, land of his birth. With perhaps a little too much alacrity for one so early in the courtship, I jumped at the offer. We flew into Lamu on a tiny plane – a heart-thumping ride where I probably gripped my boyfriend’s hand a little too tightly – and landed on the tiny airstrip on Manda Bay. The airport was then only a small thatched hut, and a sole official awaited the plane’s arrival. We stayed at Peponi, just the right blend of understatement and comfort, and were treated like old friends. We snorkelled at Manda Toto, ate fish on a deserted island, and swam in the sea while watching the sunset. When my boyfriend and I got engaged, Lars Korschen, Peponi’s late owner, sent a bottle of champagne over to our table. When we went with our first child, I adapted my expectations, and spent most of the holiday rebuilding destroyed sandcastles. As life moved on, my love affair with Lamu deepened. It has been painful to watch from afar the melancholia that has swept through Lamu – and indeed much of the coast – in the aftermath of kidnappings of foreigners, and the attacks on the mainland coast a couple of years later. Lamu continues to face threats from all sides, not from terrorism, but from the prospect of development. It has gracefully declined for centuries but its fate is in the hands of the Kenya government and its race to develop. From one side, that’s something to be welcomed, but we also urge the government to cherish one of the country’s great cultural treasures. Therein lies its very appeal. We’re delighted to bring you our islands issue just weeks after the British Foreign
Office lifted its travel ban to Lamu. In this second issue of Nomad, we bring you our pick of the private houses and explore the charm of this island with its distinct culture and rhythm that is quite unlike anywhere else on the Kenyan coast. We also head to Kiwayu, a castaway paradise on the northerly tip of the Lamu archipelago, only now recovering after five difficult years. We also return with our regulars – a weekend escape in Thika, which entails an unseemly early start to the day in an attempt to catch the dawn on Ol Donyo Sabuk, one of Kenya’s smallest national parks. Our writer plunged into Kenyatta market, sampling the nyama choma that Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, likes to eat, and enduring braids in her hair - all in the name of research. Laura Darby Singh wonders if she’ll cope on a family holiday with newborn twins, while Morris Kiruga, who has shed his pseudonym, Owaahh, with good grace, attempts to understand why Kenyans don’t travel at home as much as they might. Meanwhile, David Adriance takes a much-anticipated trip to Sudan’s pyramids. It may be a country blighted by conflict, but at Meroë pyramids, you might be the only person there. We bring you the first of our photography competitions, and what better theme to begin with than beachlife? Tag us on Instagram with #IamaNomad to be in with a chance of winning a two-night holiday in the gorgeous Lantana Galu apartments in Diani. We hope you feel inspired.
Catrina Stewart catstewartuk
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
5. FROM THE EDITOR 10. TOP SHOTS 14. NEWS A wild kiting adventure on the East African coast, and the latest in travel. 15. COMING UP What’s on in the region. 20. INTERVIEW WITH JOHN BLASHFORD-SNELL The explorer and adventurer on pioneering adventure in Africa.
41 22. EASTER CAMPING Go wild this Easter in our pick of the camping spots. 25. GOING LOCAL IN MAURITIUS Edith Honan seeks out the island’s quirkiest food spots. 26. A MEATY AFFAIR Morris Kiruga questions why Kenyans don’t travel at home. 28. POLE POLE IN LAMU Our writer finds it takes time to unwind on Kenya’s Lamu Island. We go deep on everything else you need to know about the island. 36. MAGICAL VILLAS We pick our six favourite houses to rent in Lamu. 38. ADVENTURE IN KIWAYU Trying the unexpected in Kenya’s lesser-known gem.
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
41. INTERVIEW WITH SMRITI VIDYARTHI NTV Wild Talk host talks about fashion on the road, and challenging wildlife preconceptions. 42. WILD WEST Facing fears and bawling children in Western Kenya. 44. LOST IN TIME He’s waited many years, but David Adriance finally makes it to Sudan’s fabled pyramids. 46. 24 HOURS … IN MOMBASA Jamila el-Jabry takes us through Kenya’s port city. 47. NOTES FROM THE BUSH Samantha du Toit ponders drought and friendship in southern Kenya. 48. A WALK THROUGH … KENYATTA MARKET Vinyl records, hair-braiding and hand-stitched shoes are some of the attractions of this vibrant marketplace.
59 50. WEEKEND IN THIKA Lose yourself on Ol Donyo Sabuk and marvel at Fourteen Falls. We pick our our favourite spots out of town. 56. CONSERVATION Kenyan team challenges the plastic threat to oceans with a revolutionary dhow. 58. DOUBLE TROUBLE ON THE BEACH Laura Darby Singh finds travelling with newborns is no picnic. 59. SPOTLIGHT Designers M&K on travelling with friends, and the family hearth.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
Morris Kiruga Writer, A Meaty Affair, Page 26 My style of travel: I love getting lost when I’m travelling, especially during road trips. There’s a sense of freedom and panic when you realise you might have driven for hours in the wrong direction. My last trip: I last explored Kampala on its “horseback,” the legendary carefree boda bodas of that great city. From the back of one of them, you see a city bursting at the seams with life. You also almost lose a limb to recklessness from a rider who’s wearing a formal shirt, properly tucked in, for some odd reason.
Abdalla Barghash Photographer, Pole, Pole in Lamu, Page 28
Brian Siambi Photographer, Pole, Pole in Lamu, Page 28
Growing up in Lamu: Who wouldn’t want to? It’s a life full of peace, and fresh nature. If I can say it like this, I grew up in paradise. A little gem I know: Aunty Umma’s [in Shela]. Everyone goes there, it has the best Swahili food on the island. Coconut fish curry, prawns, they’re just the best. I also like going to kibandas in Shela, local places with ugali and beans, chapatti, and fish soup. The food is very local and it’s cheap. For Ksh90, I can have a whole lunch.
Shooting in Lamu Lamu is one of the most amazing places I’ve been to in my life and even better for any photographer. The highlights for me were the sunrise and photographing the dhows and fishermen. Old town Lamu was amazing. I loved the narrow streets and capturing every day life in Lamu. Beach or bush? I love the white sands and chilled vibe of the beach. Something about the coastal regions makes people relax and just appreciate life. But I hope to do more bush travel this year and experience it.
ARE YOU A NOMAD? Fancy writing for us? We are looking for writers and photographers to join our team. We’d also love to receive your photographs and travel stories from around the region for possible inclusion in the magazine. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOMAD VOL. 2 · APRIL 2017 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF CATRINA STEWART DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI, RACHEL MWANGI IT KELVIN JAYANORIS DIGITAL CHRISTINE MONBERG, BENJAMIN WAFULA SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS GILBERT CHEGE, KUNALI DODHIA, YANIV GELNIK, DANIEL MUTHIANI, FRED MWITHIGA, SEINA NAIMASIAH, HADDY MAX NJIE, MICHELLE SLATER, NAFISA THOBANI, DEVNA VADGAMA, JOY WAIRIMU, WINNIE WANGUI, VANESSA WANJIKU CONTRIBUTORS DAVID ADRIANCE, TAMARA BRITTEN, HARRIET CONSTABLE, LAURA DARBY SINGH, SAMANTHA DU TOIT, EDITH HONAN, MUTIO KELI, MORRIS KIRUGA, WANJIKU MUNGAI CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS ABDALLA BARGHASH, SAMIR DAVE, TATIANA KARANJA, TAHIR KARMALI, MWANGI KIRUBI, STEVE KITOTO, BARRY KOENECKE, ERIC LAFFORGUE, BRIAN SIAMBI, NASRIN SULEIMAN SALES INQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL INFO@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
STEVE KITOTO Instagram @stevekitots I shot this image in the Maasai Mara, around 4pm after searching the whole day for a spot from which to view and shoot the wildebeest crossing. I used a Canon 6D and shot with a Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 telephoto lens, using a shutter speed of 1/4000 at f8.0. With wildlife, I always try to look for the extraordinary and unique moments and always try to get closer to my subject, looking for patterns and textures. All this, of course, requires patience.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
MWANGI KIRUBI Instagram @mwarv The image was taken on April 27th 2016, at the Nairobi National Park where 105 tonnes of ivory were to be set ablaze by President Uhuru Kenyatta. When we got there, I saw two KWS rangers each holding an elephant tusk. I asked if they were too heavy to have one hold both tusks. One volunteered to show his strength and hold both tusks. I then sat on the ground and took the image from down low using a wide lens to give the ranger and the tusks a larger-than-life perspective. I shot it using a Canon 6D, 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. Settings were 1/160sec at f/5.6, ISO 100 at 16mm. I used an off-camera flash to minimise the shadows on the Rangerâ€™s face.
NASRIN SULEIMAN Instagram @nazxyo The image was shot at low-tide on the east coast and from the shore, I saw a fishermen returning from their journey. I flew the drone 400 metres towards the reefs. Settings: 100 ISO, F/ 2.8, 1/1000 sec. I shot it at 2pm with a DJI Phantom 4 with ND Filter. Few tips: Donâ€™t shoot into the sun because your propellers can cast shadows and highlight dust on your lens. Beware of the wind speeds and shoot in RAW. The sky is the limit! The fun of using a drone is capturing landscapes and objects from new angles.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
LUXURY LODGE FOR GORILLA TREKKING TO OPEN IN RWANDA Coming in June 2017 is Bisate Lodge, a high-end property located on the edge of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 12-room hotel run by Wilderness Safaris will be a handy base from which to begin treks in the Rwandan part of the Virungas to see mountain gorillas and habituated troops of golden monkeys. The park also offers great hiking and climbing.
LAMU TRAVEL BAN LIFTED
FLYING TOUR OFKENYA’S NEW FLIGHTS TO LAMU, ENDANGERED SPECIES LOISABA
In a rare piece of good news for Kenya’s tourism industry, the British government last month lifted its longstanding on -and-off advisory against all but essential travel to Lamu and Manda islands. The travel ban was first imposed following kidnappings of foreign nationals in the area at the turn of the decade, and brought back after gunmen killed villagers on the Lamu mainland in 2014.
Scenic Air Safaris has started unique flying tours to learn more about endangered species, including lions, cheetahs, black rhinos and wild dogs. The tailored nine-day tour takes clients to the Maasai Mara, Laikipia, Samburu and Lewa, where they get to spend time with wildlife experts and specialists in a particular species. It’s pricey, but the company describes it as the only tour of its kind in the world.
And the good news keeps on coming! In another boon for Lamu, Skyward Express last month started direct flights to Lamu from Wilson Airport via Mombasa. It joins Jambojet, Fly540, Safarlink and Air Kenya in offering flights to Lamu. Meanwhile, AirKenya is to launch flights to Loisaba in Laikipia from the middle of the year. “As Loisaba gains in popularity, this vast wilderness will now be served daily with a minimum of two passengers,” AirKenya said in a statement.
PHOTO: COURTESY BAISKELIADVENTURES
FAMILY FUN CYCLE
Annual gathering of music, art and martial arts. A typical day begins with yoga, then a capoeria class before shaking your thing at Salsa. Finish off the day with a spot of drumming. Workshops begin in Nairobi, before the organisers take the party to Diani. The week of events culminates with a sundowner party at Safari Beach Hotel in Diani. Facebook @Tandawazi
Bring the kids, friends and significant others for an accessible biking adventure through Nairobi’s lush Karura Forest on Easter Day. Choose from marked 15 km or 30 km trails over undulating terrain. Suitable for beginners. End your morning exertions with a picnic lunch provided by the organisers. baiskeliadventures.com
April 10-16 Nairobi, Diani
April 16, Karura Forest, Nairobi
PHOTO: GEORGE MUTHONI
TURKANA CULTURAL FESTIVAL
LABA! ARTS FESTIVAL
This vibrant celebration of tribal culture takes place on the shores of the Jade Sea every May, bringing together the diverse tribes in the region for a display of dance, music and song. Other attractions include wrestling, races and the opportunity to sample different tribal foods. With the event growing in popularity, a number of tour companies, such as Gametrackers, offer longer itineraries by road, usually involving a two to three-day drive there and back from Nairobi.
LaBa! is back in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, with a host of events to delight arts fans. Now in its 11th year, this is one of Kampala’s longestrunning arts festivals. For one day, artists transform a street - this year it’s Bukoto Street - in downtown Kampala into an open-air gallery and stage. The event includes music and dance performances, while artists put their work up for sale. Each festival celebrates a different theme. This year, it’s all about community and people.
May 4-6, Loyangalani
May 27, Kampala, Uganda
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
KITING IN THE WILD In January, eight guys in their 40s dropped their day jobs for a 600 kilometre kite- and wind-surfing adventure. The aim: to surf from Lamu off Kenya’s northern coast to the island of Zanzibar. Over nine days, the team battled injuries, high winds and huge swells, not to mention extreme exhaustion. We talk to team member George Issaias about the trip.
Who thought this up? Craig Rogers [a Nairobi-born lawyer in London] had been talking about sailing a dhow down the coast since 2005 and had recently been thinking about doing it on a windsurf. Other guys had done various sections of it [on kites] … but we wanted to be the first to do it all. One day, Boris Polo [team member and owner of H20Extreme in Diani) finally buckled and snapped: “Let’s just do it!” How did you go about it? We used our own kit, a mixture of boards and kite sizes dependent on weather conditions. In general, we took two sizes of kite each. The challenge was you’d set off in the middle of the day when the wind was light, and be underpowered, but by the end of the day [when the wind picked up], you’d be totally out of control. We had a safety boat follow us in case of emergencies. In Kilifi, we met up with our 40ft Catamaran, which would become home for the rest of the trip. What were the challenges? We had one very difficult day from Shimoni to Tanga. There was nowhere to stop for five hours, and the wind picked up to extremely dangerous levels. It gusted to 45 knots, with 3 ½ metre swells with a very nasty chop. It was a miracle we all made it in one piece. A really strong gust took me off my board and I was unable to bodydrag myself to retrieve it because of the waves and the nearby cliffs. I had to sit there and wait for 15 minutes in the water while the rescue boat finished picking up Craig who was having footstrap issues, before it came to drop off the spare board to me. That was the longest 15 minutes of my life. The jellyfish stings didn’t help. Most of the guys agreed the conditions were the worst they’d ever seen on the coast, let alone kited in.
Tell us about the injuries. When we pulled into Pangani, a beach with an old pier that stinks of sewage, the pier columns had broken off, and you couldn’t see them until the big waves withdrew. One of our guys, Marc, went straight into one and got knocked off his board. He could have broken both of his legs. As soon as we were on the beach, Nic [the photographer] ran down with hydrogen peroxide, a hard-core disinfectant. I had crashed into a reef after one hour into the trip, and got a gash on my hip. The hydrogen peroxide was the worst pain I’ve felt in my life but, without it, we could have picked up some nasty diseases. We had a few burnt retinas – really bad eyeache – and crazily achy legs. Blisters, awful sunburn, dehydration, and many more issues. Your body finds ways to deal with it. Highlights of the trip? In Kipini [90 kilometres south of Lamu], we could hear hyena from the beach. Sometimes elephants walk along it. It’s a really wild place where blue water turns to red because of the Tana River. People there looked pretty shellshocked as only a handful of people had kited there before, let alone a group. They had no idea what they were looking at and it seemed the whole village came out to check us out and have a laugh. Between Vipingo and Mombasa, we entered lagoons with butter-flat water. We had 2 ½ hours of smooth riding, immediately after an hour of rough seas just prior. I can’t explain the ecstasy of that … cruising with your best friends in perfect conditions across empty lagoons. It was epic. Without question though, the highlight was releasing six baby turtles back into the water in Watamu, thanks to the great conservation work done by the Local Ocean Trust who greeted us on the beach.
Would you do it differently next time? Two of the most experienced guys, Jason and Boris, used surfboards, which go in one direction and require regular switching of your feet. I would use one of those. Although technically more difficult, they’re much easier on the legs. The rest of us were on twintips, which left us with badly-swollen ankles and knees towards the end. All you’re interested in is comfort, not performance. The surfers seemed to be the most comfortable so that’s what I’d do differently. Did you kite all the way? At the end, we were let down by very poor wind. We made it as far as Maziwi Island only a few kilometres from Zanzibar, then had to stop and wait for the wind to give us a sign of life. It went from extreme the day before, to non-existent, so we were forced to sail the last few kilometres on our catamaran. It was a real blow. We imagined landing in Zanzibar, hugging each other, screaming in celebration. To be denied that is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. We also had to wakeboard sections of Formosa Bay north of Malindi – again, because of light wind. Despite that, how did you feel? Overall, we felt fantastic, elated. Our energy levels were very low, but our spirits were very high. There was a really big sense of achievement. We sat down for dinner [in Zanzibar], and each said a few words about our personal journeys and what it meant to us. It was a really fitting end to a great adventure and we were thrilled to have done our bit for the coast we all love so much.
The team raised more than $10,000 for the Local Ocean Trust and the African Billfish Foundation.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
BOOKS WE’RE READING
EMAIL FROM NGETI: AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF SORCERY, REDEMPTION, AND FRIENDSHIP IN GLOBAL AFRICA
by James Smith, Ngeti Mwadime The story of a friendship between anthropologist James Smith and his researcher Ngeti Mwadime, a charismatic young man from the Taita Hills. Blaming family members and sorcery for thwarting his efforts to make it rich, Ngeti seeks answers from unusual sources, embarking on a journey that takes him to local diviners, witch-finders, Pentecostal preachers and prophets.
THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE
by Tendai Huchu Vimbai is the best hairdresser in her Harare salon, but things turn sour when she starts to lose customers to smooth-talking Dumisani. When Dumisani is looking for somewhere to live, she becomes his landlady. The two strike up an unlikely friendship, and Dumisani introduces Vimbai to his family, where she is surprised to discover he hails from one of the wealthiest families in Harare. But the new friendship unravels amid the exposure of a secret that will end in tragedy. A humorous story of friendship and forgiveness from Zimbabwe.
SWAHILI FOR THE BROKEN HEARTED
by Peter Moore Dumped by his girlfriend, Peter Moore seeks to heal his broken heart amid the anonymity of Africa. What begins as a journey of escape turns into a hair-raising adventure from Cape Town to Cairo. Moore gets around any way he can, relying on public transport and blagging free rides all the way up the continent. In a series of misadventures, he escapes a riot by hiding in a coffin shop, acts as an extra in a WW2 film, comes face to face with a hyena with very bad breath, and gets escorted out of Robert Mugabe’s birthday bash at gunpoint.
Here at Nomad, we love good photography. We are particularly excited about the photography that is coming out of this region. And so we announce our very first photography competition with a fabulous two-night break at Lantana Galu’s luxury beach villas in Diani for the winner. The theme is beach life. Stunning beachscape, sand colours on the dunes, a shot of family life? Anything goes! Send us your best photographs for a chance to win our prize and be featured in the next issue of Nomad Magazine. Enter by posting your photo on Instagram. Tag @nomadmagazineafrica, and use the hashtag
#IAmANomad - Caption the image with a few words about the inspiration behind the shot. - All pictures must be authentic, and your original work. -Should your shot be chosen, we will require a high-resolution copy of the image. -- Closing date: 30th April, 2017 at Midnight EAT.
Nomad reserves the right to use the winning photograph for editorial purposes only and the photogrpahers still retain the copyrights to all their images.
AFRICANS FOR ELEPHANTS
Africans For Elephants hosted a Cocktail Party on Tuesday 28th March at Emerald Garden Restaurant on UN Avenue, Nairobi, to raise funds for The Walk With Rangers Initiative. In attendance was Raabia Hawa, the founder of Walk With Rangers, Ethiopian Airlines Country Director, Mr. Zewdu H. Mariam and Akinyi Adongo, the founder of Africans For Elephants. The event raised over Ksh340,000 which all goes towards Walk With Rangers’ anti-poaching efforts.
1. Valerie Rollins (Winner of a ticket to anywhere in the world Courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines) and Mr. Zewdu H. Mariam, (Country Director, Ethiopian Airlines) 2. Akinyi Adongo and Raabia Hawa 3. Karen Sibrian, Milena Suárez, Ravi Shah, Akinyi Adongo and Soledad Herrero 4. Shrina Patel, Sudanese artist Dr. Rashid Diab, Bunty Bamrah and Akinyi Adongo
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
JOHN BLASHFORD-SNELL He’s the man who pioneered white-water rafting and turned Raleigh International into a global volunteering charity for young adventurers. Just back from a trip to Kenya - visiting Lamu and Laikipia - the explorer and adventurer talks to Nomad about wild river expeditions, bringing a grand piano to an Amazonian tribe and the little things that make him tick. Tell us about your connection to Kenya. I came here during Operations Drake and Raleigh [volunteering projects for young adults]. I worked with Richard Leakey [chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service], a lot of people in the KWS. We did conservation work all over. That was in the 1980s. Coming back last year was the first trip after a very long absence. You travelled down the Congo River in 1974-5 in inflatable rafts while in the British Army. We were a huge team including many scientists and 11 doctors, specialists in eyedisease [river blindness was prevalent in the area]. We also had a fairly large escort of local soldiers, a frightening bunch. They wanted us to be armed to the teeth … but we kept the weapons out of sight. But when the going got tricky [when anti-government rebels looked as if they might attack], we made a show. We had to stage a mock bombing, and make it look as if our plane was able to drop bombs. The expedition took three months, and the last bit was down the Livingstone Falls. It was pretty horrendous water. The next ones to try – a French team – all perished. And you took a grand piano to the Amazon? When I was staying with the Wai Wai in Guyana, the chief priest said, “We are very
musical people. When you come back, will you bring a grand piano?” I said, “Have you ever seen one?” “No,” he said, “but I have seen a picture.” A freight plane flew us to a mission airstrip. We were supposed to be met by 100 Indians to move an 800-pound object. When we arrived, there were six Indians, three of them children. We had a sledge made out of mahogany. By the time we reached [the village], they had moved it to the top of a hill. A doctor on the team was a piano tuner and a choir master. He reassembled the piano, and taught them to play it. Two years later, they sent me a message, saying the piano was out of tune, and could we do something about it? So we brought in an expedition of adventurous piano tuners. Then as a Royal Engineer captain, you took a team down a stretch of the Blue Nile in 1968 at the request of the Ethiopian Emperor. It was said to be one of the last unexplored parts of Africa, 200 or so miles of gorge coming out of Lake Tana [in Ethiopia]. Nobody had managed to navigate it. We pioneered inflatable boats for what became known as white-water rafting. It changed the face of exploration. The rafting was extremely exciting. We had slight problems with hippos and crocodiles. But [the threat
came] not so much from the wildlife – you can get around that – but the bandits. Bandits attacked us thinking we were Haile Selassie’s men, but we were armed and able to fight ourselves out. What do you always take on trips with you? A Victorinox Swiss Army penknife with a bottle opener, and if possible, a bottle of Mumms champagne and also my special Zenith automatic watch. What’s your favourite view in the world? Corbiere Lighthouse, Jersey (my home Island), at sunset. And your favourite hotel? The Peponi Hotel, Lamu. That beautiful beach … I was just very taken, and couldn’t think of another hotel in the world preferable to Peponi. Tell us about your most disastrous trip Camping on the West Coast of Scotland one summer with my young daughters. It rained and rained and I pitched our tent in a cow pat. When not raining, the midges attacked us. What’s next? The Colombian Amazonas area on an expedition in May 2017. We are taking in an ambulance boat for the local Indians.
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A limited number of exceptional plots of 10 acres or more are now available for sale. Whether you live abroad or in urban Kenya, whether you want a family home or an investment, an easy-to-reach bolthole or just your very own slice of African biodiversity, there is a unique plot here for you.
Build your dream home and help preserve African biodiversity for future generations. www.malu-ranch.com
Tel: +254 (0)701 665 775 NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
We all know that sinking feeling: Easter is coming up, but everything’s booked, not to mention wildly expensive. Well, why not gather some friends together, scoop up the kids, and brush the dust off that old tent festering somewhere in a cupboard, and go camping. We bring you our five favourite spots around Kenya. By Harriet Constable
NGARE NDARE FOREST, NANYUKI 4 HOURS FROM NAIROBI Perhaps the most magical camping spot in Kenya, a night in the Ngare Ndare Forest involves sleeping on a tall wooden platform beneath the shelter of rustling treetops. At ground level, there’s a huge tangled tree with a dug-out space for campfires, and adjacent to the platform is a canopy walk suspended high above the ground. During the daytime - as you wobble your way along it - you might catch sight of the forest’s wildlife, including elephants. At night, if you walk far enough, you’ll escape the tree cover and be greeted by a universe of twinkling stars overhead. Bring all your own kit and supplies, and be sure to do the hike to the plunge pools during your stay for a swim. Contact: Call +254 722 886 456 or +254 700 412 532 in advance to book. For directions and more info, visit ngarendare.org. Price: Camping costs Ksh2,000 per person
per night. You’ll also need an armed ranger for Ksh1,000 for camping. The hiking guide is an additional Ksh1,000 per group. MOUNT OLOLOKWE, ARCHER’S POST 5 1/2 HOURS FROM NAIROBI At 2,000 metres high, Mt. Ololokwe dominates the skyline in Samburu with its distinctive table-flat top. Reaching the summit of this mountain is no mean feat: it’s a three-hour pretty much vertical ascent on tracks carved out by elephants to the top. Pitch your tent at the top of the mountain and savour the sunset over northern Kenya with your Samburu guide. At the base of the mountain on a seasonal riverbed is Sabache Camp, a good place to overnight if you want to start your hike before the heat gets too much. You’ll need to bring your own supplies. Contact: Mark (+254 726 991 597) is a recommended guide.
Email email@example.com to book a night there. Price: Camping on the summit of Mt Ololokwe costs Ksh1,500 per person per night; conservation fee is Ksh1,000 per 24 hours. A guide costs Ksh1,000 per group, and porters are also available for Ksh1,000 per person. CAMP CARNELLEYS, NAIVASHA 1 1/2 HOURS FROM NAIROBI Set on the shores of picturesque Lake Naivasha, Camp Carnelleys is a laid-back, easy option for a camping weekend. Naivasha is filled with lovely things to do, from hiking the Mt. Longonot crater to cycling among the zebras and giraffes in Hells Gate National Park. You can either book into one of Camp Carnelley’s simple but comfy bandas, or pitch your own tent on their grassy lawn leading down to the lake. There are showers, picnic tables and toilets on site, plus a relaxed
restaurant with big chunky kanga cushions and a huge central fire. The restaurant serves hearty meals and has its own pizza oven. This is a great spot for a family, with its own volleyball court, ping pong table and room to run and play. In the late afternoon, head down to the jetty with a couple of beers for a sunset sail around Lake Naivasha. Contact: For more info and to book, call +254722501952 or visit campcarnelleys.com Price: Camping costs Ksh800 per person per night with your own tent. A two-person en-suite banda starts from Ksh8,000 per night, including breakfast. MOUNT SUSWA, NAROK 3 HOURS FROM NAIROBI The best part of camping at Mt. Suswa is waking up. In the early morning on a sunny day, the blades of grass surrounding the huge volcanic crater are covered in glistening dew.
Down in the lush green basin, geysers pour warm steam into the air, a reminder that the volcano is still alive beneath your feet. The final part of the drive to the crater rim is pretty tough, so you’ll need a decent 4x4 vehicle. Meeting your guide in the nearby town is recommended as he can direct you inland on the dirt tracks. Being hard to get to does have its benefits though – this campsite on the crater rim is one of the most beautiful in Kenya and, on most days, you’ll have the place entirely to yourselves. Bring ball games to play on the big stretch of grassy campsite, books and a hammock to sling up between the trees. A hike to the peak and down into the bat-filled caves is a must. Contact: Jeremiah is a recommended guide on +254 712 244 583. Price: Conservancy fee is Ksh3,000 per person per day, camping costs Ksh500 per person and it’s another Ksh500 for a car.
HAVILA RESORT, SAGANA 2 HOURS FROM NAIROBI Occupying a pretty location on the banks of the Tana River in Sagana, Havila Resort is another easy camping option for the Easter weekend. The campsite lies next to the river, with showers, toilets and picnic tables. There’s also a restaurant serving a range of dishes from pizzas to burgers. Havila offers a number of activities, from treks along their many nature trails to yoga lessons next to the river, but the most exhilarating option by far is the white-water rafting. If that’s not quite your thing, lazing around the grassy campsite with a good book and the sound of the running river in the background makes for an idyllic alternative. Contact: Advance booking is necessary. Call +254 719 519 752 or email info@havilaresort. com. Price: Camping costs Ksh2,000 per tent per night. White-water rafting is Ksh7,000 per person for a day.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
Eating like a local in
MAURITIUS With 150 kilometres of sandy beaches and some of the best diving in the world, Mauritius is a honeymooners’ paradise, but many visitors never leave the plush grounds of their resort. During a recent trip to the island, Edith Honan set out to discover the real Mauritius. And that journey began with her stomach. SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE My first stop was the central market in Mauritius’ capital, Port Louis. Mauritians are a mix of Indian, Creole, French, Arab, African and Chinese, and the market is a celebration of that diversity. Mauritians joke that their national dish is Chinese-style fried noodles, and there’s plenty of that all over the island, but you’re just as likely to be served Creole octopus curry, or a fresh, chewy baguette. MILKSHAKE WITH A TWIST Enter the food court at any hour between dawn and the late afternoon, and you’re sure to find Mauritians gulping down ice-cold glasses of alouda – the island’s answer to the milkshake. It’s a weird-looking beverage – frothy milk, with glossy black beads and bits of clear jelly bobbing to the top. Mauritians swear by it, as much as a filling breakfast as a refreshing afternoon snack. To make it, several quarts of milk are poured into buckets and sweetened with lots of vanilla and
sugar. A generous handful of basil seeds is added; within a few minutes, they’ll fatten up to maybe four times their size, like chia seeds. The drink is served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and bits of fibre-rich agar agar jelly (which doesn’t taste like much but keeps you full). FIERY FOOD The food court’s other main offering is dhal puri, a delicious, messy triangle of curried beans and hot chili packed into a crêpe-like vessel made from split peas. It’s made by laying out the fluffy dhal puri in front of the condiments, and splashing a spoonful of each – the beans, the stewed greens, the tomato sauce and the chili – into a messy pile in the center of the pancake. Fold it twice and voilà! It’s really good, but it’s also fiery hot. A cold glass of alouda, it turns out, is just the thing to cool your palate after a few bites. NEXT UP: FISH. I had heard that the best seafood restaurants were to be found around in the northwest corner in the island so I made my way to the Grand Baie and the Trou au Biches areas – a 45-minute drive from Port Louis. I drove past a number of perfectly-nice tourist traps, and then hit gold: a waterfront spot called La Cabane du Pecheur, basically a shack with great views. Run by a local cook and her
daughters, the place serves up fabulous fresh seafood curries. All of the cooking – grilled langoustines, prawn curry, piña coladas made with local rum – is prepared in tiny quarters, while the eating happens at picnic tables overlooking the water. Following the advice of a local who had suggested the place, I ordered prawns cooked in Creole-style red sauce, and served with fragrant saffron rice and local chutneys. The sauce – a tomato base, with lots of ginger, thyme, cumin and garlic – has a lovely sweet and sour flavour. NOW FOR THE RUM After a long day, I was also ready for a drink and went with a Mauritius classic: strong Mauritius rum with fresh mango juice and coconut milk. I listened to the waves crash into the rocks below, feeling slightly drunk and very happy.
Edith Honan was reporting from Mauritius with the support of the International Reporting Project.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
A KENYAN TRAVELLER
A MEATY AFFAIR
Morris Kiruga thinks he’s nailed the reason why Kenyans don’t travel
e are sitting in the wilds of Tsavo West at night, when the conversation first comes up. As the waitress refills our glasses, the breeze wafts towards us the aroma of sizzling nyama choma (roast meat) a few feet away. It’s distracting. So, as we wait, we talk about food. For the first time in years of travel, I’m staying at a five-star hotel that serves up real nyama choma. The night before, githeri was on the menu, which got me inexplicably excited. I didn’t really fancy githeri but I added it to my plate because it was there, and it was delicious. It’s a conversation that keeps coming up - in Loiyangalani, then again in Amboseli, and again on Rusinga Island. It’s a conversation about the importance of food. “Just how much does food matter when you travel?” someone asks. A friend, sipping her drink, responds: “A lot. I don’t necessarily ask what the hotel has on the menu before I book, but it matters when I get there.” Eating nyama choma is one of Kenya’s most important social activities. It almost doesn’t matter whether it’s well-made, just that it’s on the menu. On each new major road, an evergrowing line of nyama choma joints is bound
to appear. I asked one whether he makes any money with all that competition, and he told me that the good days are really good. The one thing you can be sure of, he said, is that Kenyans will still love their meat and beer tomorrow. So, if we are trying to build domestic tourism, why are we still cooking for the international tourist? It’s a simple enough question. Why is food in top hotels still so, well, foreign? Travel is an experience at every turn. The journey there, the room, the view, the pool, the activities, and the food. But food isn’t just for Instagram and Snapchat posts, it’s most likely the most important experience. It may be forgotten if it’s good, but it will be remembered if it’s bad. “I think food is one of the key reasons, after cost, why many Kenyans don’t travel,” someone else says. “I really wouldn’t want to travel to a place I can drive to but can’t recognise anything on the menu. What is it about nyama choma, in particular, that is so appealing? “It is so Kenyan because it’s communal, but it still lets you be private with everything else,” a selfconfessed carnivore on the table explains. It’s a food that doesn’t ask about your day, and doesn’t care about your net worth. Nyama Choma is not a uniquely Kenyan food, but it holds a special place in Kenya’s food story. It is a social lubricant, a food that
claims no specific community and is as much about the experience as the food. It is served on communal chopping boards and eaten with fingers. On any given weekend, my friends and I travel in any direction to enjoy the views and meats of Kajiado, Ngong, Machakos, Naivasha or Thika. They are not any different from each other, mostly, but that’s not the point. As the conversation veers away from nyama choma, it becomes clear that meat here is symbolic. The experience of most travel in Kenya has been the safari experience, which is a draw for the foreign tourist but not so much for the person who can pop into Nairobi National Park at any time. Kenyans are looking for more enticing travel plans, such as hiking and bungee jumping, as well as camping and road trips. Like most ageing enterprises, big hotels aren’t evolving their models fast enough to attract younger Kenyans who want to travel. Back at the hotel, the chef takes a piece of meat and eats it. If you cut nyama choma for a group of people, you have to eat the first piece. It’s not just for security, it’s also some form of payment in kind and also confidence in your culinary skills. When this chef does it, it strikes me how local an experience this is. I am sleeping in a room that costs more per night than my monthly rent, but at this moment, I could be anywhere in the country. I am home. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com
THE V.I.P IS DEFINITELY THE PLACE TO BE THIS
COME LETâ€™S TOAST TO THE HOLIDAYS WITH FRIENDS AND GOOD CHEER!
ACCOMMODATION Executive rooms have king or twin beds, air conditioning, complimentary hair dryer on request, a work desk, wireless internet connectivity, 32 inch high definition digital Tvs and private luxurious bathrooms with showers. We also offer Room service on a 24hrs basis.
LOUNGES Executive lounges with premium satellite TV channels and piped music. The Lounges are themed on international cities to include New York, Paris, Washington DC and London. 24hrs Restaurant services for continental and local traditional dishes which include a blend of tastes from across the world.
HOSPITALITY We have a friendly customer service team led by our hospitable hostesses at your service from the minute you arrive till you leave
The Villa International Palace Hotel P.O. BOX 233-40605, Sidindi Located at Madeya center, 50km from Kisumu along Kisumu-Busia Road Tel: +254 702 690 371 NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017 Email: Thevillainternationalpalace@gmail.com, Facebook: The VIP Hotel Madeya-Siaya County Website: www.viphotel.co.ke
POLE POLE IN LAMU
Itâ€™s the island that time forgot. Catrina Stewart eases into the slow pace of Lamu. PHOTOS: ABDALLA BARGHASH, BRIAN SIAMBI, TAHIR KARMALI
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
awake to find my noses inches from black, swirling water, the dhow lurching from side to side in the pitched dark. I dimly see Mohamed, the bosun, frantically hauling in the sails, and the boat begins to steady. That early squall blown out, we hit a limp wind, and it quickly becomes apparent we aren’t going to get to Lamu anytime soon. Another problem presents itself – I need to pee. “How much longer?” I ask Mohamed, puffing on his cigarette in the darkness. His English isn’t great, but I sense from his gruff reply that we have a few hours yet. Taking the slow boat to Lamu from Kiwayu, a supposedly six-hour journey in a lateensailed dhow, had sounded oddly appealing. For centuries, traders have plied the same routes, catching the same breezes. That my dhow nods to modernity with its small Yamaha motor scarcely dampens my mood. As we pull into little-visited Pate Island – still a good two or three hours from Lamu – my need for a loo break is desperate. Mohamed reluctantly agrees to escort me up the seaweed-strewn beach and stand guard. As I disappear into the shrubbery, I hear an altercation between him and another man, doubtless unhappy that a woman is squatting just a few feet away. Back on the dhow, I try to relax into the journey. Mid-morning tea becomes lunch, and I fantasise about a little café on the seafront. But as we run aground in a narrow channel at low tide, my romantic notions of sailing into Lamu stutter to a halt. “Could we start the engine?” I plead. As we enter the harbour of Lamu town, our dhow nudges in between overloaded passenger boats, packed with traders, shrouded women with babies, and commuters. I clamber up the slippery, mollusc-encrusted steps of the jetty to be accosted by touts looking for business. “Mama, come with me,” shouts one, another lunges for my bag. Within moments, I am ushered into the labyrinthine streets of the town, powerless to prevent my entourage from taking charge. Protest is useless. When finally they deposit me at my lodgings, Lamu House Hotel, we are more or less back where we started. I escape with relief into the quiet embrace of the hotel with its sun-drenched courtyard and pool beyond. I wander up the seafront promenade to look for something to eat. After a brief wait, a waitress slams grilled garlic fish down on my table. As I start to eat, my stomach begins to churn, and I set half my meal aside. “The food is not good,” she barks. “No, no, it’s great,” I stammer. “I’m just not feeling that well.” Hands on hips, she snarls, “Get some medicine.” Instead of looking for a chemist, I plunge into the melee of the old town, where donkeys, laden with cement, or hauling mangrove poles
for construction, doggedly clip-clop. Weaving my way through the donkey dung, I stop to sip juice proffered by cross-legged coconut vendors, and pinion myself to the alley walls to allow the passage of hand-pushed carts. A visit to Lamu Town, designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001, is sometimes described as stepping back in time. But there is little static about it. Despite the appearance of activity, nobody seems in any great rush. Middle-aged men in embroidered kofia caps play draughts in the main square in the shade of an enormous fig tree, others engage in energetic debate, while shopkeepers lean on ornately-carved doorways half-heartedly drumming for business. The hum of traffic is blissfully absent here; only a couple of official vehicles and a tractor for cleaning are allowed on the island. Rarely has the Swahili phrase, “Pole Pole,” or slowly, slowly, seemed so apt. Later, I find myself on a dhow heading out into the channel. Nik Mitchell, the ebullient manager of my hotel, hands me a feta samosa with lime. I crunch it contemplatively, wondering when the famed ‘coastitis’ will sweep over me. The sun starts to set, and we silently tack along through the mangrove, sipping wine. I feel I’m beginning to slip into the rhythms of the island. Or perhaps it’s just the wine. In some respects, Lamu still feels like something of a backwater, a thought that’s not entirely disagreeable. Western travel advisories – a response to kidnappings of foreigners in the area at the turn of the decade, and a spate of deadly attacks on the nearby mainland in 2014 – have shattered the economy here. Tourism died a slow death, and hotels and villas were all but shuttered and seasonal staff laid off. The effect feels less pronounced in Shela. Many visitors bypass the old town altogether to head here, thanks in part to its miles-long sweep of beach. It has a sleepier feel to the old town, and its community retains a sense of distinction, even having its own Swahili dialect despite the mere two-mile separation. Shela, says Angelika Schuetz, who manages Prince Ernst of Hanover’s villa in the village along with others, has always had “a certain type of luxury that is not luxury-luxury.” “The luxury here is that you don’t have to wear shoes,” she said as we sip coffee on the seafront verandah at Peponi, the whitewashed boutique hotel that put Lamu on the map. “You’re not in a resort, you’re embedded in a local community. The village is right here, you’re part of it.” The recent decision by the British Foreign Office to lift its long-standing advisory against travel to Lamu island has given Shela a muchneeded boon. But its effect is felt much less in Lamu town, which has struggled to compete with Shela for the tourist dollar.
Back in the old town, I run into Captain Smiley, a grizzled old-timer, on the jetty. As we talk, he reminisces about the good days, when he was almost daily out on the water, guiding tourists, and taking them on sunset cruises. Then came the problems, and a six-month curfew, where everyone had to be indoors after dark, devastating to an economy that is heavily reliant on night fishing. “Our grandparents were fishermen. We started out on the sea, too, but our other job was tourism,” he says. “Now tourism has slowed, we have to go fishing. But if there are no tourists, then it’s not a big market.” He says gloomily of tourism: “We feel it has gone for good.” Some are banking on the new port that is coming to Lamu, and which is already under construction. Conservationists hate it – the rich snorkelling grounds at Manda Toto, it is feared, will disappear. Others see it as an opportunity for work. It could also be the saving grace for Lamu town’s hotels, with businessmen gravitating towards the island. I leave the jetty, and thread my way back to my hotel. As I walk, the muezzin is calling the faithful to prayer before the town hunkers down into siesta mode. Lamu seems to meander at its own slow pace while the world around it races on. But it’s a timelessness that is under threat, and I can’t help but wonder how long Lamu will be able to resist.
HISTORY OF LAMU The Swahili settlement of Lamu town was founded around 1350 by Arab traders. Later, Portuguese explorers, Turkish and Indian traders, the Omani Arabs all left their mark on Lamu, making it one of the most interesting settlements on the Kenyan coast. Since the 16th century, it has come under one foreign ruler or another. In 1505, the Portuguese invaded Lamu, remaining there for more than a century before they were ousted with the help of the Omanis. Under Omani protection, the island entered its golden age, emerging as a centre for poetry, politics and craft. What are now small villages were once citystates, and Lamu became a thriving trading centre. Merchants from foreign lands imported mahogany, teak, gold and more and left with sought-after commodities such as ivory, rhino horn, turtle shell, not to mention slaves. In the mid 19th century, political control passed to the Sultan of Zanzibar, who for most of his life was a willing enforcer of the slave trade. Lamu enjoyed a brief period of German protection in the late 1800s before finally coming under British colonial rule until Kenya won its independence in 1963.
Our grandparents were fishermen. We started out on the sea, too, but our other job was tourism,” he says. “Now tourism has slowed, we have to go fishing. But if there are no tourists, then it’s not a big market.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
PLAYGROUND OF THE RICH
MAD FOR YOGA
On Pate Island to the north of Lamu is Siyu, once a thriving metropolis and major centre of Islamic learning. At the height of its influence during the 17th and 18th centuries, its population reached around 30,000. Now fewer than 4,000 people live in the town. We dug up a few facts about Siyu.
Long before mainstream tourism reached Lamu, this Indian Ocean island has been a discreet paradise and playground for some of the world’s most private people.
Every evening, an airy room in Banana House Wellness Centre is transformed into a scene of contorted bodies. It’s just yoga, but the practice has taken off in Lamu, where every year a yoga festival attracts more than 350 participants.
Siyu Fort is a particularly well-preserved coral structure that is thought to date back to the 19th century. It is unusual in that it was built by locals, rather than imposed on them by foreigners. It’s thought it was built to protect residents from Omani Arab domination. Near to the town are the Shanga ruins, a hard-to-find site with remains dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and possibly the oldest ruins on the Kenyan coast. Some excavations have been made, and there are around 130 houses, tombs, a palace and two mosques. It is a remarkable example of a medieval Swahili town. Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, an Al Qaedaaffiliated terrorist wanted for his part in the 1998 bombings in Kenya, hid out here in the early 2000s. He married a local girl and passed himself off as a preacher. He founded a football team called Kabul. There was already another one called Al Qaeda. A local girl, Mwamake, was recently identified by Chinese researchers as a descendant of a sailor in Admiral Zheng He’s fleet, said to have sunk off Siyu in the 15th century. China whisked her off to China to study medicine, and paraded her as living proof of its former naval prowess.
Mick Jagger, Jude Law, Sting – they have all holidayed here. Bunny Allen, the legendary white hunter, made Lamu his home, and Prince Ernst of Hanover built a grand mansion in Shela, every year attracting an eclectic crowd for a bash on the beach. At the centre of all this is Shela’s Peponi Hotel, which emerged as one of the great hotels in the world. Started in 1967 by Danish farmers Aage and Wera Korschen, Peponi became the fabled establishment it is today under their son, Lars, and his wife, Carol. They drew in the global elite while ensuring the hotel retained its low-key charm. It was here that violinist Yehudi Menuhin delighted guests with an impromptu afterdinner performance, and that composer Hans Werner Henze said he was inspired to pen his 9th symphony. Yet Peponi, for all its style, is a hotel without pretension, a leveller of people. Later, an affluent set of bankers, film producers, and European actresses, would flock to the island, converting crumbling old merchant houses into coral-coated chic villas, or building new ones.
When tourism fell off in amid security concerns, yoga practitioner Monica Fauth saw yoga as an opportunity to help Lamu, the island she had lived on for 20 years after giving up a career in fashion in the Netherlands. It is now just one of several events that crowd Lamu’s annual calendar - among them dhow races, an artists’ festival, and a contest for the most inventive hat. Pretty quickly, it started to draw a following from all over the world. Fauth started by doing yoga on the beach. “Lamu was the perfect place to wind down. There are no cars, no stress,” she says. She married a local man, Banana, and when their son became sick, she was spurred into signing up for a course in the Art of Living. “I was surviving more than enjoying my life,” she recalls. “I did the course, and then I felt like, wow. It gives you the tools to handle our daily life.”
After a string of shootings of villagers on the Lamu mainland in 2014, the island’s tourism industry stuttered to a stop. The A-listers stayed away, and local visitors became the beneficiaries, benefiting from falling prices at some of the world’s most exclusive retreats.
She set up her wellness practice 10 years ago, and it is also a chic guest house and at the vanguard of Lamu’s yoga craze. Yoga, meanwhile, was gathering momentum in the region through the work of the Africa Yoga Project, and Monika thought the time was right to bring it to Lamu on a bigger scale. “When Lamu was down, it was the right time to pick up something positive,” she says.
Prices are unlikely to remain low for very long. Shela is already witnessing a revival that seemed scarcely imaginable two years ago. And there’s no better spot to people watch than the bar at Peponi.
The Lamu yoga festival takes place annually in March. The Lamu yoga wellness festival, bringing together practitioners from different fields, including yoga, will take place from November 1-5.
UBER LAMU As a child, Captain I’ll Be Back was often caught sneaking out of school early and, while darting from his school in Lamu town to his home in Shela, he used to call over his shoulder, “I’ll be back.” Ever one to stick to a theme, his boats include I’ll be Back, I’ll be Back Soon and – his latest – Lamu Uber.
What’s your favourite part of the archipelago? It has to be Lamu island. It’s easily the busiest and most vibrant island in the archipelago. Lamu has a lot of things to be proud of: it’s rich in history and rich in architecture – many of the houses are more than 400 years old. As a World Heritage Site, it has become touristy but nothing has been spoiled. What’s your favourite local dish? I love fresh seafood, and the best place to eat it has to be the restaurant at Peponi Hotel, on the seafront of Shela village. You can sit on the veranda enjoying the freshest seafood while watching the dhows sailing up and down the channel. There are several dishes on this menu that I love, but my favourite has to be the ginger crab. When you can get away from your fleet of boats, what do you like to do? I love to walk along Shela beach at sunrise or at sunset. At sunrise you create the mood for the rest of the day. If you walk on the beach when your mind is still sleepy, you create the best mood you can have: watch the sunrise, get some fresh air, maybe have a swim. At sunset, you create an environment for finishing the day. After you’ve worked hard, you take a walk on the beach to cool down, take in the beauty and let go of the day. What changes have you seen in Lamu? There are more houses, and more people, but I have yet to see anything negative. We have a lot of people from abroad, especially from Europe, living here now. When foreigners fall in love with the island and decide to stay, they buy from locals and contribute to the income of the community. And of course they need places to eat, places to sleep. On top of this, many of them contribute to the building of schools and hospitals, and to the cleaning of the town and the beach. What do you think makes Lamu so special? Lamu people are very friendly and they are trying to keep the place special. Everything is governed locally. The Community of Elders takes all the decisions. Shela doesn’t have a police station – we are very proud of that – and we handle our issues ourselves. We don’t rely on the government: we have our own people for the services we need such as cleaning, and teaching. What do you think draws tourists? Lamu is unique. It’s peaceful and natural, not overdeveloped, noisy or hectic. There are no cars on the island, and people use boats or donkeys to get around. Perhaps for this reason, mass tourism hasn’t discovered the island yet. As told to Tamara Britten NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
PHOTO: ERIC LAFFORGU
WHERE TO STAY
SUBIRA HOUSE, LAMU TOWN
Tucked away in a little side street of Lamu town is Subira House, the creation of Paul and Christina Aarts. The hotel offers wellappointed and comfortable rooms, a rooftop terrace, and small garden. If not staying, stop by for a meal in the courtyard under the stars. Food is slow cooked here with the freshest ingredients from its own garden. $$ Subirahouse.com
LAMU HOUSE HOTEL, LAMU TOWN
On the edge of Lamu town, this stylish hotel offers quiet seclusion away from the fray. The entrance opens up into a charming open courtyard, small pool, and petal-bedecked seating. Some rooms overlook the seafront, giving a quite different perspective on a Lamu sunrise. The hotel has its own beach club for guests on Manda Bay. $$$ Lamuhouse.com
A long-standing favourite for an international crowd, Peponi Hotel is the place to stay
in Shela. It boasts a spacious honeymoon suite above the main restaurant, a pool transformed into a lovely dining area at night, and a fine restaurant serving up crab, lobster, and everything in between. $$$ Peponi-lamu.com
DIAMOND BEACH VILLAGE, MANDA BAY
Take a taxi boat over to Diamond Beach, a more rustic restaurant and hotel over on Manda Bay. Fridays are film and pizza night, and the weekly event draws a big crowd of Lamu residents and visitors alike. The bartenders serve up some of the best cocktails on the archipelago. $$ diamondbeachvillage.com
If money is no object, try taking a dhow for a night for something completely different, Chefs whip up tasty fare in the open-air galley, while guests sleep out on the deck under the stars. $$$$ enasoit.com
$ Under $50 per night; $$ $51-$120 per night; $$$ Under $200 per night; $$$$ Over $200
FIVE MAGICAL EXPERIENCES IN SHELA 1. Harvesting fresh natural rock oysters at Manda Toto island 2. Snorkelling and swimming with dolphins at Kiniyka Rock 3. A sunset sail into Lamu Bay on a traditional Lamu dhow 4. Exploring the ancient ruins of Takwa 5. Drinking a fresh madafu (coconut water) in Lamu Old Townâ€™s market square Andrew Gruselle, Manager of Peponi Hotel, Shela
Ras Kitau Bay, Manda Island For reservations contact us on +254 20 712 3300/1/2 Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.majlisresorts.com NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
WHERE TO STAY
To experience Lamu’s slow-living pace, we recommend gathering a group of friends or family, and taking a private house for a few days. It was a tough call to narrow the offering down to just six. Here’s our pick of the crop.
BEST FOR SUNDOWNERS Forodhani House, Shela Photos barely do this house justice. Its corner positioning - it stands on the spot of the old watchtower - means that guests can enjoy 270 degree views out towards Manda, and down towards Lamu town from its expansive dining terrace. A nicer spot for a sundowner is hard to imagine (and a sunriser, too, if there were such a thing). There are separate, more intimate seating areas, too, for when your fellow guests get too much. Price from $500. www.forodhanihouse.com
BEST FOR STYLE
BEST FOR LOCATION
Kilamawingu House, Shela Designed by an Italian architect for the Peugeot family, this is a very special house facing out over the Manda channel. Particularly lovely is the corner master bedroom, with windows facing out on two sides, catching the opposing breezes. The use of Indian fabrics and large doses of colour reminds you this someone’s private house, lending it a more intimate feel than many places on the island. Sleeps 10. From 400 euros per night. Contact shelahouse.com
Beach House, Shela This private residence is one of Lamu’s most stylish properties. It benefits from being right on the beach, and in a previous era was the location for some of Lamu’s more renowned parties. The spacious bedrooms with their own verandahs have unrivalled views over the channel towards Manda Bay, and guests can climb to the gazebo on high ground behind the house to catch the sunset. The pool area is so inviting that you might never feel the need to step out the front door onto the beach. Sleeps 12-14. From $1,200. Contact shelahouse.com
WHERE TO STAY
BEST FOR COUPLES Betty’s Suite, Shela It can be tricky finding a small house in Lamu. Sometimes all you want is a romantic bolthole without compromising on views and luxury, and Betty’s Suite certainly offers all that. The double bedroom opens out onto its own outdoor seating area complete with private infinity pool. Particularly appealing is the bathtub overlooking the sea. Now there’s a view. Sleeps 2. From $250 per night. www.themoonhouses.com
BEST FOR CULTURE LOVERS
BEST FOR BEACH LIFE
Andavelo House, Lamu town This airy villa at the heart of Lamu Town is an escape in the truest sense of the word. When the town becomes too much, take refuge in this stylish oasis with its own courtyard plunge pool. The house is filled with gorgeous Lamu antiques, bureaux and high-standing beds. Climb to the rooftop for views over Lamu town and harbour. Sleeps 12. Suites available from $100, whole house from $300. Contact email@example.com
Pepo House, Kizingoni A 15-minute boat ride from Lamu Town is the golden beach of Kizingoni, and perhaps the last thing you’d expect is to find on this more deserted part of Lamu is a large private villa. Pepo, meaning “wind” in Swahili, is a tall, modern villa designed to catch the cooling sea breezes, and exudes Lamu-style comfort with its spacious bedrooms and outdoor dining areas. It has its own large pool, and the beach is just a few minutes walk away. The house has its own boat for excursions, giving guests the freedom to act on their whim. Sleeps 12. Ksh40,000 for the whole house. www.kizingonibeach.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
ADVENTURE IN KIWAYU
Remote Kiwayu lies at the north of the Lamu archipelago. Catrina Stewart heads to this little-visited slice of paradise, and finds she is ill-prepared. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MIKEâ€?S CAMP
ou might need some shorts. It can get a bit muddy,” warned Juma, the manager at Mike’s camp. It was the first indication I was not setting out on a comfortable jaunt. “And don’t you have any covered shoes,” he asked, looking doubtfully at my tattered flip flops. I pondered the need for covered shoes. Weren’t we just going to poke around on the beach to look for some crabs? A short while later, I was gazing at impenetrable mangrove forest. I took a couple of steps, and sank to my knees in mud. Quickly deciding that shoes were more of a hindrance than a help, I kicked off my flip flops and set off after my guide. In a valiant, but ultimately vain, effort to keep up with Dulloh, a 58-year-old veteran crab hunter, his son, Hassan, and I clambered over entwined branches and squelched through swamp. It was exhausting work, and as I tired, I started to make mistakes, putting all my weight onto a rotten branch, or stepping onto a needle-pointed stick poking out of the mud. But it was also unexpectedly exhilarating. Not since I had been pushed and shoved around an assault course as a young army cadet had I enjoyed both mud and physical exertion quite so much. It wasn’t quite what I had been expecting to do in Kiwayu, a beautiful island off Kenya’s north coast better known for its vast sandy beaches than for its mangrove swamps. Dulloh stilled my thoughts: he had found a crab. He passed me the crab-catching stick, a simple wooden pole with an upward spike at the end. The idea is that the crab, its curiosity struck by this new toy, clamps onto the pole, and is pulled out of the safety of its deep underwater cavern. I probed, but nothing happened. Taking the stick from me, Dulloh poked some more. He said softly, “Simba” [lion], referring to the size of the crab. His son sighed impatiently. Not for him a career of crab-hunting. He wanted to be an engineer, or perhaps a soldier. This was only his second time in the mangrove, he admitted, and he didn’t much like it. As we chatted, Hassan’s father pushed the stick in again and again, twirling it around to attract the hounded creature. With a soft “ooooh” he pulled back the stick towards the surface, and the crab appeared. With unexpected nimbleness, Dulloh had grabbed it. He grinned: it was huge. By now, I was tired. We headed back to Mike’s Camp, the low-slung thatched property on the other side of the creek, to weigh our catch. It was a kilo, and I paid $4. The camp’s chef took it away with a glint in his eye. The rest of the morning was given to relaxation, something that’s easy enough to do at Mike Kennedy’s place, an eco lodge where even the open loo with its view of the Indian Ocean is a place for contemplation. With open sea and miles of wide, sandy beach on one side of the island, and a creek perfect for swimming on the other, Kiwayu is for many their version of island paradise. The camp is simplicity itself: donkeys lug jerry cans for bucket showers over the sand dunes to the main camp, while guests sleep in sprawling thatched bandas that are entirely
open to the elements. Elsewhere on the island, which is part of a marine reserve, time has similarly stayed still. Kiwayu, the quiet and pretty fishing settlement that sits above a horseshoe bay, has experienced none of the gaudy construction that has blighted other parts of the coast. The island has always held a fascination for Mike, although for a long time it was just a place on the map. In the late 1980s, he set off with some friends from Watamu by road with motorbikes and a jeep to reach it. They lost the jeep to a river in full spate, and were thrown into prison for a couple of days for riding bikes without plates. When after all that he finally reached Kiwayu – remote and unblemished by tourism – he was sold. “I spent four or five glorious days going ‘Wow, wow, wow. What a beautiful place’,” he says. He opened his lodge in 1992. For two decades, Mike’s business thrived on this fishing island as visitors sought everquieter coastal hideaways, and the garrulous host attracted a mix of celebrities, sports fishermen and locals. For amusement, Mike once took a small plane up to the Somali border, just 30 miles away, and dropped watermelons on insurgents’ camps. But the proximity to war-torn Somalia would prove to be more than just an interesting aside. In 2011, at Kiwayu Safari Village over on the mainland, armed men stole into the camp at night and attacked British holidaymakers Judith and David Tebbutt. They shot David dead, and whisked Judith away to Somalia, who was to spend six months in captivity. The attack was followed by the kidnapping of a disabled French woman from Manda island near Lamu, who subsequently died for lack of medication. Western governments advised against all but essential travel to the northern coast, advice that was extended further south after a spate of attacks on coastal villages in 2014. Tourism more or less ground to a halt. For five years, Mike recalled, “we were really, really struggling.” In the meantime, the Kenyan government has boosted its security presence along the coast. On the mainland opposite Kiwayu, there is a bolstered police force as well as Kenya Wildlife Service rangers. Somali piracy is in abeyance with the presence of Western navies off the Somali coast, while security forces claim to have routed militant elements in the Boni Forest, a longtime hideout along the border for Somalia’s al-Shabaab insurgents. At one stage, Mike manned a 24-radar post, and brought armed guards over to the island if guests were staying. These days, he said, he doesn’t feel the need for those extra measures. One Western diplomat agrees that security is much improved, but cautions the travel advice reflects not so much the potency of the threat from al-Shabaab or other groups but rather the ability of the Kenyan security forces to respond quickly and effectively in the case of an incident. Did Mike ever consider giving it all up, I wondered. “I knew I’d just weather the storm,” he said. “I consider this my home now – I’ve lived here for 25 years – and I knew things would just start working again.”
Since late last year, bookings have picked up considerably, he says, and, most notably, foreign visitors are starting to return. As I come down for my final meal before a 4 am departure by dhow to Lamu, I wish I had more time to settle into the island experience. The chef brings me dressed crab – the very same crab I held alive in my hands hours before – and I solemnly sit down to eat it. For once, I don’t take such a delicacy for granted. Nor should we, I suppose, take Kiwayu for granted. If the events of six years before tell us anything, it’s that paradise is fragile indeed.
The writer was a guest of Mike’s Camp Getting there: From Lamu airport on Manda Island, it’s a one-and-a-half-hour ride by speed boat to Kiwayu. On return to Lamu, try sailing by dhow – a 6-8 hour journey – or hitch a lift on a passing miraa boat. For those flying in, there is an airstrip on the mainland across from Kiwayu island, but no commercial airlines currently fly there.
WHERE TO STAY
Mike’s Camp Run by Mike Kennedy, this beautifullyappointed eco lodge perched above the creek is a local favourite. Guests sleep in secluded, open-air bandas made out of natural materials among the sand dunes. Enjoy a sundowner in a hammock overlooking the creek, followed by a candlelit dinner under the stars. On the other side of the island is a beautiful stretch of beach on the Indian Ocean. From $150 pp per night. www.mikescampkiwayu.com
Kai House A more recent addition to Kiwayu is this fully-staffed private bungalow offering true castaway living. A 10-minute walk from Mike’s Camp, it is situated above its own private beach, and is perfect for couples looking to get away from it all. The main bedroom is in a loft overlooking the creek, with a comfortable open-air lounge air below. The house can sleep up to eight. Ksh15,000 for the whole house. Contact Anikia Henley on firstname.lastname@example.org
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
PHOTO PAULA KAHUMBU
SMRITI VIDYARTHI NTV Wild Talk host Smriti Vidyarthi talks about falling in love with nature, keeping up appearances on the road, and creating awareness about what there is to lose. By Wanjiku Mungai.
“You’ve been a city girl your whole life” My least favourite part of travelling is the actual travelling. It can be tiring, especially when it’s for work. And then packing: I hate packing and unpacking. I also have to think about my wardrobe because if we’re doing multiple shows on one trip, I need to pack different outfits. The good thing is that I’ve travelled so much for the show, I now keep certain things ready. Travelling for work means you see how the other half lives. At first it’s discouraging, like when you travel to rural areas and you’ve been a city girl your whole life. The reality of it is quite disheartening and really angers me. We went to Pate Island in Lamu and I just questioned what this government is doing, where are the county funds going? You are met with rubbish in the water and sickly stray cats and there’s a lot of poverty and it strikes you like, what’s happening? On the side of the wildlife, what’s been challenging is that there really are serious problems out there facing our wildlife and our environment and so many people aren’t really aware of it. “We got robbed and my camera was stolen” The first time I was away from Kenya for an
extended period of time was in university in the UK. Winter months can be awful but university was fun. I visited a Bajan friend in Barbados for three weeks during one summer while in uni. The ocean was so clear: I couldn’t believe I could see my hands underwater! The island is so small you can drive around in half a day and the views are incredibly striking. The next summer I went to Costa Rica to visit another friend. It was so different from what I was used to: lush rainforests, parrots and toucans flying in the wild. We went bungee jumping and ziplining and visited this place where a guide book said the beach was pristine but it was awful, we got robbed and my camera was stolen. But the whole trip was amazing. “You can’t fall in love with something if you don’t know what there is to fall in love with” I’d always been a lover of wildlife, nature and the environment but I’ve never been so passionate to the point where I wanted to do environmental journalism. But I was at a point in my career where I was looking to start my own show. We’ve done shows on some crazy things that I never thought would make a 45-minute show. We did a whole episode
on grass in the Nairobi National Park and another on insects in Laikipia. I was talking with a driver the other day who said to me, “That episode about dudus made me feel so bad about killing insects and now I don’t do it anymore.” I think that’s why this show is important: making people aware and transforming hearts and minds. How can you tell somebody that we need to protect lions when they don’t even know what a lion looks like? You can’t fall in love with something if you don’t know what there is to fall in love with. “The oceans are clearer than bath water” In Kenya, the destination that really took my breath away was Turkana. Getting there by road was an absolute mission, but there were some really beautiful places like Eliye Springs. Outside Kenya, my husband and I went to Seychelles for our honeymoon. The oceans are clearer than bath water and the beaches are powder white. I would love to go again. My last trip for fun was to Doha earlier this year; Qatar Airways invited myself and a few people from other media houses. It was amazing. We went on a desert safari and were almost blown away!
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
WILD WEST ega Nairobi - Kitale - Kakam
Kericho - Nairobi
A five-day road trip through Western Kenya with elderly parents and two small children sounds like a recipe for disaster. But Catrina Stewart soon starts to see the funny side.
ichard gets a perverse enjoyment from putting the frighteners into his guests. We’re about to embark on a drive into Mt Elgon national park, and already I’m wishing we weren’t. “Make sure your kids don’t have any cuts or grazes,” he says. Why, I ask. With a glint in his eye, he says, “Ebola!” He’s exaggerating for effect, but he’s got a point. In the shadow of Mt Elgon is Kitum Cave, where lurks the Marburg virus, the lesser sister to Ebola, but no less deadly. Thirty odd years ago, a Danish boy contracted the virus after some amateur excavations, but it might as well have been yesterday the way I’m feeling. It’s the first rest day of our five-day road trip after a lengthy slog from Nairobi with my elderly parents, husband and two toddlers crammed into the car. Road trips are great for the solo traveller, and adventurous pairs, but I feel vaguely uneasy about embarking on one with two young children, and wonder how they – and we - will cope. When we get to the cave, I shrug off my fears. One would have to venture deep into this cave, alive with bats, to have even the remotest chance of getting Marburg from where it’s thought to be found – in bat guano. I remind myself that hundreds of school children come here every year with no ill effects. Then Anna, my youngest, bounds delightedly into the cave, promptly falls over and eats a mouthful of dirt. Elephants come here at night to lick salt, and their dung is everywhere. I silently pray it is just dung, not something more sinister. Marburg leaves my mind as we explore the park, driving through beautiful, dense woodland up into the moorland above, ignoring the trail leading to the mountain. We see little wildlife – except for some bushbuck and dik dik – but having the park to ourselves is sufficient reward. Back at Barnley’s, the homely guesthouse that Richard Barnley runs with his mother, our host asks us about our day. I mention we went beyond the steps into the cave. His eyes widen. I mention Anna’s fall. He puts a hand over his eyes. I tell him Anna ate some dirt. His head sinks into his hands. A moment later, he hands me a tattered copy of Hot Zone, a sensationalised account of the hunt for the source of Ebola and Marburg. I read into the early hours, and sleep fitfully. The next morning, we hit the road early for Saiwa swamp, the home of the Sitatunga antelope. We discuss our host on the way. “Well, he’s reasonably tolerant of children,” my husband says. “I’d say he’s reasonably tolerant of guests,” my father replies. Despite his outwardly sardonic manner, Richard has shown himself remarkably tolerant to two small children who turned his farmhouse upside down, and fed his family’s much-loved soft toy to the dog. A downto-earth white Kenyan, he has an incredible knowledge of a complex and fascinating region that he is more than willing to share. We reach Saiwa as dawn breaks. Kenya’s smallest national park is only 3 kilometres squared in size, and wreathed in mist, the swamp looks enchanting. We set off in
search of the Sitatunga, distinctive for the faint white stripes across its back. Dotted around the park are look-out treehouses, and we clamber up some rickety steps at lookout number four to get a good view of the antelope. A bawling toddler, roused too early, oddly doesn’t scare them off. Within a few hours, we’re back on the road, heading towards Kakamega. It’s a fourhour drive, and we’re three days into our road trip. For most of the way, we stay on the tarmac, before cutting off onto a beautiful dirt road that takes us through small villages and towards the Kakamega forest. The fuel light starts blinking, and I pull into a pump in the next village. My husband enquires whether
the way up and refuses to go on. Parenting styles come in to play here. “Leave her, she’ll follow,” my mother says. “I can’t,” I wail. Pretty soon we all wish we were back at the ranch. Day four, and we’re back on the road again, this time heading for Kericho. As it approaches lunchtime, we idly start looking for somewhere to stop, and pull in at the romantic-sounding Tea Planter’s Inn, before quickly pulling out again. My husband drags out a vague memory of a place around here called the Nandi Bears Club. We’re in luck, it serves lunch. But we feel like we’re gatecrashing a Sunday garden party: the white community is holding a tennis tournament, and we’re quickly
it’s good fuel. “Yes,” smiles the man pouring in diesel from a drum. “We siphon it off the main pipeline.” Fuelled up, we arrive at Rondo Retreat, an unexpected haven of American-style clapboard cottages with full-length verandas. The children, let loose, race around the huge, lush grounds. We rise early for our bird walk, for what else does one do in Kakamega, famed for its abundance of birdlife, not least the Blue Turaco. With the forest thickly canopied, and the birds well-camouflaged, it soon becomes apparent that you don’t so much see the birds, but hear them. We invent our own descriptions of their calls. “That’s a deep-throated chuckle,” my husband suggests of the Joyful greenbul. The Red-tailed bristlebill emits a strangely tuneful descending scale, the Scaly-breasted illadopsis a piercing whistle. “How would you describe that,” I ask of the Black-faced rufous warbler. “A whirr?” my husband suggests. The African thrush has us all confused. Timothy, our guide, tells us it is adept in mimicry, commanding as many as 50 different calls. In the heat of the day, we climb a small hill, overlooking the vast Kakamega forest, the last remaining chunk of equatorial rainforest that once stretched all the way across Africa. Rosie, my four-year-old, has a tantrum on
surrounded by sweaty joviality. We leave Nandi Hills, and wind through stunning scenery. This is Western Kenya at its finest. Cornfields, tea plantations, views as far as the eye can see. The only vehicles we pass are tractors piled high with crops. It becomes a game – points for a Massey Ferguson, but nothing for a Ford, which seems pretty popular in these parts. Rolling into Kericho Tea Hotel, I feel a pang of disappointment. I’d imagined a plantation hotel among vibrant green fields of tea, but this has a utiliatarian feel to it. Nevertheless, the new manager, Edgar, is full of exciting ideas for restoring the hotel to its former glory. I linger in the foyer, and run my fingers over peeling memorabilia on the walls. A staff member tells us how once it was the place to stay. But the “old men” who own it, the employee says, let it go. It’s time to head back to Nairobi. The mood falters around Naivasha, when we find the first place we try for a late lunch has closed down. After driving around for forty minutes trying to find somewhere close but suitable, we end up on the lawn at the Lake Naivasha Country Club. “I don’t know why we didn’t just come here first,” my father mutters. Monkeys clamber around the garden, and steal Anna’s orange. I sigh. It’s meltdown time again.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
LOST IN TIME Visiting Sudan’s fabled pyramids has been a dream 30 years in the making for David Adriance. Would it live up to his expectations?
hirty years is a long time to look forward to something. And chances are, with that kind of lead time, expectations will not be met. I first learned of the pyramids of the black pharoahs in 1986 from watching a documentary called “The Africans,” produced by Kenya’s own Professor Ali Mazrui. The pyramids of Upper Nubia, built over 2500 years ago, were cited as one of the more dramatic examples of sub-Saharan African civilizations that were even more advanced in many ways than European societies at that time. Although I was to travel to Khartoum for work several times over the coming years, I was never able to make it to the fabled pyramids. To do so would have required a knowledgeable local guide, a sturdy fourwheel drive vehicle, camping gear and all sorts of government security clearances. Serendipity beckoned earlier this year when I met a Sudanese artist in Nairobi. I mentioned the pyramids and he lit up – he knew of an Italian tour firm in Khartoum that led guided tours to the pyramids and even owned comfortable properties near the sites. I sensed intuitively that now was the time and made bookings to join a group in December. I would be there for my 60th birthday, which somehow felt very appropriate. My sister and I arrive in Khartoum a couple of days before our tour begins. I remember Khartoum as a low-key but friendly place and worry that it might have “modernised” in the 15 years or so since I had last visited. My fears are quickly allayed. We can hardly proceed 50 metres without customers at one of the tea stalls set up under a tree on nearly every street inviting us to join them. The tea is green, sweet and very strong, served in shot glasses that have to be gripped precariously between thumb and forefinger because they’re so hot. The mixture of caffeine, sugar and more
sweat propels us forward. The Blue and White Nile converge in Khartoum and we stroll along the rivers, making inward forays to museums and cafes, preferably those with air conditioning.
I ask Sylvio about this graffiti from an earlier era, and he sighs, “The mother of imbeciles is always pregnant. Our third morning, we are met by our tour guide, Sylvio. A polymath, he includes archaeology among his specialities and has made more than 50 trips to the pyramids. After picking up the other guests, we begin with a morning at the Archaeological Museum. Sylvio’s in-depth knowledge of the history of Upper Nubia is immediately apparent but also alarming: there is no way we can absorb but a small fraction of the facts and figures he has in his head. This king, that dynasty, this temple, that monastery – it is overwhelming and we resign ourselves to trying to understand at a very basic level the context within which the pyramids came to be. Here’s my neophyte nutshell: the Kushite kingdom arose in the 10th century BC; Meroë, the site of the most well-known pyramids, became the capital after the Egyptian invasion of Kush in 593-591 BC. As imperialists tend to do, the Egyptians overextended themselves and the Kushites
pushed back, invading Egypt and more or less ruling Upper Nubia until the 4th century AD. They took on and adapted many of their previous rulers’ customs and traditions, including the construction of vast necropolises and the entombing of royalty within pyramids. We spend the better part of nine days exploring tombs and ruins. Some are in advanced disrepair, others have been stunningly restored. Pyramids, paintings, hieroglyphics, buildings with Grecian columns still standing, underground tombs – they all depict a remarkably sophisticated civilisation which flourished for centuries along the banks of the Nile. Everywhere there is evidence of previous exploration and excavation, some of it shockingly crude. In the 1830s, for instance, Giuseppe Ferlini, an Italian combat medic turned explorer, lopped the tops off more than 40 of the pyramids in his search for treasure. Having indeed found dozens of gold and silver jewelry pieces, he had great difficulty selling them in Europe because no one believed that such high quality jewellery could be made in Africa. We see European names carved into the stones in the 1800s. I ask Sylvio about this graffiti from an earlier era and he sighs that “the mother of imbeciles is always pregnant”. Visiting the ruins, contemplating the rise and fall of these remarkable African civilisations, is on its own profound and moving. But the real kicker: we never encounter a single other tourist at any of these sites. If one is desiring knick-knacks or camel rides, this is the wrong place to be. As we explore the sites in solitude, the silence seems to carry an almost palpable weight. History that can be touched. It’s with a newfound sense of reverence and appreciation that we finally bid farewell to Meroë and return to “civilisation” in Khartoum and beyond. I know now that it is possible for some expectations to be surpassed even after 30 years in gestation.
DID YOU KNOW? Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt. Over 250 pyramids were built in Sudan, more than double the number of larger pyramids built in Ancient Egypt. Some 73 pyramids remain in the Nuri region, while there are nearly 200 pyramids at MeroĂŤ. More than 9.3 million visitors flocked to Egypt in 2015, yet only a smattering of tourists make it to Sudan, marred by upheaval.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
Wake up to the smell of a Swahili breakfast. Wander through the alleys of the old town, and you’ll find different vendors selling delicious foods. My favourite is mahambri (our own version of mandazi) and mbaazi, pigeon peas cooked in coconut milk. A heavenly combination. Sometimes I change it up with viazy vya karai, deep-fried potatoes, with a dollop of spicy chutney, giving me a kick-start for the day.
From dawn to dusk in
MOMBASA Jamila Hassan el-Jabry is a Kenyan blogger who writes about life, food and culture from her home in Mombasa. Find her at her www.lifeinmombasa.com
OLD TOWN TOUR
Old town Mombasa is full of rich culture and architecture. Take a tour, starting with Fort Jesus, a 15th-century structure located at the entrance to the old town harbour, before delving into the alleys to soak up the diverse historical and modern styles of architecture. My usual stop is Jahazi coffee house, a traditional coffee shop in a lovely setting. Sit back on the Swahili-inspired furniture, and sip kahawa chungu, strong black coffee served in a small cup, and relax. The decor makes me feel right at home.
Living on an Island means you spend a lot of time on the beach. My favourite spot is Voyager, which has great access to the beach and comfortable beach beds on which to lounge. Order a refreshing juice cocktail to cool down and savour the sea breeze. Tired of that? Jump into the magnificent infinity pool overlooking the sea.
SUNSET WATCHING AT ENGLISH POINT MARINA
After a long day of activities, a great place to unwind in Mombasa is English point Marina. Order a cup of coffee from one of the little cafes here, such as Cafe Arabika Marina, and sip it slowly while enjoying the sun go down behind the island. From its location across from Mombasa, it’s a great place to catch breath-taking views of the sun setting behind Mombasa.
PHOTOS JAMILA EL-JABRY
After all that walking, you’ll be famished. With the assimilation of different cultures, Mombasa is also known for tasty biryani. My ‘go-to’ place for biryani is Kwa Maalim in Kingorani. I love it because it always taste like homemade biryani, whereas most places add too many spices. But Kwa Maalim gets it just right, and the food feels like something my mother would make.
NOTES FROM THE BUSH
WAITING FOR RAIN Failing rains mean Maasai herders are struggling daily to find fodder for their animals. Samantha du Toit ponders the future.
here was a quiet yet urgent knock on the cottage wall. “Mama, mama, you must come now,” Risa, our Maasai watch man, called. “Elephants, drinking!” he called excitedly. Dragging Taru from his lunchtime nap, and grabbing Seyia by the hand we rushed to the dining area. Creeping towards the river’s edge we looked upstream and saw four elephants, standing elephantankle high in the water and drinking. For us, it was a special sight. Elephants rarely come out into the open here. For the local Maasai, too, who gathered around whispering enthusiastically, this was the first time they had seen these gentle giants up quite so close. With the short rains failing in November, the river running by the cottage is at the lowest I have ever seen it in the 10 years or so that I had been living in the area. That little trickle of water is pretty much the only remaining life source across the ecosystem, bringing more wildlife to our doorstep, including the elephants which we love. I can’t help but think about our Maasai landlords, struggling daily to decide which direction to take their cows, with most decisions bringing them into close contact with elephants and lions as everyone converges on critical water sources. Life is harsh for a nomadic pastoralist on so many levels. Even though we all pray for the rains to come soon, I know that even then the agony is not over. Once the rains come, the cattle and ‘shoats’ (the term for a mixed herd
of sheep and goats) die even more rapidly, as their shrunken stomachs can’t cope with the new greenery. This drought, though, is still better than it was back in 2009, when the Maasai from Shompole headed deep into Tanzania looking for forage. This year, the Tanzanians, also Maasai, have come here, as have the Purko Maasai from the North. The Purko animals, I am told, have started to die and even though they present added pressure on dwindling pasture, in true Maasai spirit, they are welcome. We passed one such Purko cow this morning on our early morning drive with the kids. Seyia, all of five years old, was curious to know why it had died. Being fortunate enough never to have felt true hunger in her life, she struggled to grasp how an animal could die for lack of food, especially since it looked fat from bloat. She was immediately concerned about her goats, a mother and baby. They were given to her by our Maasai cook, but kept with his herd for safekeeping. When we returned to camp, she rushed to find him to ask after them. She was visibly relieved to be told that they were fine, but insisted that we plan a visit soon to the boma where they live. The thought of sweet, smoky boma chai (traditional tea) was an added draw, I am sure. Sitting watching the baboons settle into their favourite sleeping places in the fig trees as the light fades, I am relieved by the fact that southern Kenya and northern Tanzania are home to just one tribe, the Maasai, for the most part, and lacking the proximity to the availability of guns that seems to be
Even though we all pray for the rains to come soon, I know that even then the agony is not over. Once the rains come, the cattle and ‘shoats’ die even more rapidly. spelling disaster for northern Kenya. For the time being at least. At the same time, I am crying for Kenya, for Laikipia, and for what it means for a peaceful and prosperous year for all of us.
Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
A walk through…
Mutio Keli plunges into Nairobi’s Kenyatta Market, a melee of shoemakers, hair braiders and nyama choma fit for a president.
Get your hair braided. The hair braiders of Kenyatta Market wait at the bus stop and entry to the market like odd sentries that are only armed with colourful samples of their work. These women will sweet talk and bully you into their salons. At Divine Beauty Salon, stall 381, I cave to two maroon braids that hang oddly from my nape. As many as five women will crowd your head, making fast work of a hairstyle that can take half a day to do in a neighbourhood salon. Do not be surprised when one of them lifts an exposed thigh to come level with your head. Braids that have been twisted tight against a thigh, I am told, hold faster than anything done with just mere hands. Take your time to haggle, and give as good as you get with the backhanded compliments.
Ask Vinyl Man to dance with you. He wouldn’t dance with me but he shared an extra cigarette. And even after I let the cigarette die, Jimmy, the Vinyl Man, endured my inexpert exploration of what is perhaps East Africa’s best vinyl record collection. Although Jimmy has stubbornly refused to give his shop a name, it is not hard to find. The collection is housed in stalls 569 and 570, the only shops in Kenyatta Market’s butchery corner that are more likely to issue the sound of jazz than that of sizzling meat. The organising logic of Jimmy’s collection is price but this lends itself to discovery. In my explorations, I find Gladys Knight and Bob Marley keeping each other company. These records have been scrounged all over East Africa— as far away as Lubumbashi and as close as the nearby Kibera slums.
Eat like a President Before President Uhuru Kenyatta spent Ksh21,000 on nyama choma in Kenyatta Market, B6 used to be called Hai Hai. After Uhuru’s visit, it has been rechristened Ikulu Ndogo (Little State House). The owners have not let fame go to their heads. The place still retains all the elements of any self-respecting nyama choma joint. Above narrow tables and cheap plastic chairs, flies buzz, sometimes landing on a poster of the President and his right-hand men tearing apart their meat. Your order will be delivered still sizzling on a chopping board with a side of kachumbari and ugali. Tasting is free but Gerald, one of the butchers, assures me that once their choma touches my tongue, I will be unable to stop. Don’t waste your time asking them to shave off the layers of creamy fat.
Get a pair of bespoke shoes The cobblers of Kenyatta Market sit in a row just beyond the butcheries. Their corner of the market smells of leather and melting glue. Their wares are on display - stilettoes made colourful by yellow Ankara fabric, loafers with accents of Kitenge or Kikoy and a surprisingly beautiful pair of ballet flats covered with hessian fabric. Some of these shoes are made from scratch, original designs crafted with rescued leather and sought-out fabric. But you can also bring your old, dull shoes and they will make them into something new and exciting. Oduor, who has been working in this spot for 18 years, tells me that many of his customers comprise brides looking for something unique for their big day or something terrifying for their bridesmaids.
Go mad for fabric Kenyatta Market hums with tailors. Many of the sewing machines, I am told, hum well into the night. So buy some fabric (or bring some with you) and realise any textile-based fantasy you might have. Sidoni Fashions, stall 395, specialises in embroidering Christian iconography on bed-covers and table cloths. I find head tailor Francis sewing an angel’s wings onto a tablecloth and for a moment I am tempted to buy a blue duvet cover decorated with a pink Madonna. Not interested in embroidered duvet covers? You can get a dira, a casual cotton dress, tailored in under an hour at stall 72, design your own quilted handbag at stall 18, get yourself measured for a new Kaunda suit (the short-sleeved jacket tailored for a more casual look) at stall 136 or even argue about wedding-dress designs at stall 182.
Some Tilapia for the Road Nyangi halves 20 Tilapia at frightening speed, dashes across to Migingo Hotel to scoop deep-fried fish from a bubbling vat of oil only to rush back to the front of her shop in time to joke with a regular customer. She is queen of her domain. Migingo Hotel is a small, unassuming place just outside Kenyatta Market but its customers swear that the fish sold under its taupe shade is perhaps the best this side of the Rift Valley. “It’s the freshness that keeps me coming back,” says Ken, who’s driven up in a Mercedes to stock up on a month’s supply of fish. For the last 20 years, Nyangi has received fresh fish from Kisumu every day at 4am. You can get your fish to go or you can sit at the back of Nyangi’s shed and enjoy her cooking with a side of ugali.
PHOTOS: BRIAN SIAMBI
In my explorations, I find Gladys Knight and Bob Marley keeping each other company. These records have been scrounged all over East Africa.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
THIKA Most people whizz past Thika on their way north, but it’s more than just a commercial centre. Out of the town itself, this area famous for its pineapple plantations offers something for everyone, whether it’s a taxing hike or a weekend doing nothing much in a coffee plantation. PHOTOS: SAMIR DAVE
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
A few decades ago, Fourteen Falls must have been a magical place. The falls themselves are really very beautiful, and in the dry season, itâ€™s possible to pick out each of the separate waterfalls. But encroaching habitation has taken its toll, and the waters are now scummy and greenishcoloured, and the banks strewn with litter. Nevertheless, itâ€™s still a mesmerising spot. Guides offer boat rides, and for a small fee will plunge from the top of the falls into the pool below.
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
A few kilometres from the gate of Ol Donyo Sabuk national park is the McMillan House, where William Northrup McMillan, an American philanthropist, and his wife, Lucie, hosted legendary house parties, entertaining the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The exterior is well-preserved, but a farmers’ cooperative, which owns the house, has taken up part of it as an office. Plans to turn it into a museum have yet to come to fruition, but it’s relatively easy to get access. The house is more or less stripped bare but take a look at the dungeon where the Duke of Aosta, commander of the Italian forces in East Africa, was interned (and died) during the Second World War.
FOURTEEN FALLS LODGE
Worth popping in for a quick bite if you fancy nyama choma and a swim. This small hotel off the road on the way back to Thika also has quadbikes for rent at Ksh1,000 per hour. There’s a good trail available, with several different laps to try. The bikes themselves are in need of a bit of maintenance, however - you might find yourself walking home.
OL DONYO SABUK
It’s one of Kenya’s smallest national parks, dominated by the densely-forested hill of the same name. It takes about three hours to get to the top on foot (or 40 minutes with a vehicle) with views on the way up of Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro on a clear day. Near the top is the grave of Lord McMillan, whose wish was to be buried at the top of the hill. It was a wish unfulfilled as bearers were unable to lug his 158kg frame to the summit. Although no view from the top, there are nice shady spots for a picnic.
EDITOR’S PICK MANYIKA HOUSE
Former home of Beryl Markham, huntress and aviatrix, this 1930s colonial-era farmhouse lies amid a sprawling coffee plantation a short drive from Thika. It’s a great place for families with a large living room and fireplace, and a playground, including a sunken trampoline, in the five-acre garden. For those looking for a spot of exercise, there’s ample scope for tramping through the coffee. Sleeps 10. Rates start at Ksh17,500 for the whole house on a self-catering basis. www. manyikahouse.com
BLUE POST HOTEL
This historic hotel, built in 1908, occupies the plum spot in town opposite the Chania Falls. The falls may not be as grand as Fourteen Falls, but they’re certainly cleaner. The garden is a pretty, shaded spot for lunch (buffet lunch is served daily) or afternoon tea if passing through. If making a stay of it, choose the rooms overlooking the falls. The rooms are garishly decorated but clean and comfortable enough. Prices start at Ksh6,500 per room. www.blueposthotel.co.ke
SABUK GUEST HOUSE
This Kenya Wildlife Service-run guest house in Ol Donyo Sabuk park has weathered the years well. Formerly the warden’s house when it was part of Lord McMillan’s ranch, this is now an attractive, if slightly worn, bungalow with verandah and garden. Early in the morning, it’s a good place for spotting the park’s buffalo herds. Sleeps 10. Ksh2,000 per person if five or fewer. Ksh20,000 for the whole house. www.kws.go.ke
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
What I pack … for the beach
Ami Doshi Shah is a jewellery designer, whose label I AM I explores sculptural forms against the human body.
The Cinnabar Green Thyme Bodywash. Happiness in a bottle (of a different sort).
My Turquoise Torque Neckpiece from I AM I. It’s the perfect balance of statement and minimal.
Chloé by Chloé. I love the peony and rose notes in this perfume! I have been wearing it for almost a decade now and never go anywhere without it.
A one-piece costume from Tanzanian designer, Doreen Mashika, in Zanzibar.
My Boro Dress from Kenyan designer, Katungulu Mwendwa. It’s honestly one of the most comfortable and flattering dresses that I own. I have it in two colours. My Sketchbook and Windsor and Newton watercolours. Inspiration hits in the most unlikely of places
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
FLIP FLOPI DHOW
Plastic is an everyday part of our lives. Yet all this plastic – millions of tonnes of it – is being dumped into the ocean every year, choking marine life, and entering the human food chain. We are facing, conservationists warn, an environmental disaster. A Kenya-led team is drawing attention to the threat – and hoping to make history – with the world’s first plastic dhow, a full-size traditional sailing boat. Construction of the Flip Flopi dhow, as it is called, is taking place on Lamu Island, led by Kenyan boat builders. By Catrina Stewart
CONSERVATION What’s the problem? Plastic dumped in the ocean takes hundreds of years to break down, presenting a deadly threat to fish and bird life, not to mention us. When it doesn’t kill the marine life, it enters the human food chain, ending up on our plates. By 2050, there will be as much plastic in the ocean as there are fish, according to the Ellen McCarthy foundation. How can we solve it? Raising awareness is key. That was the idea behind Plastiki, a catamaran made from reclaimed plastic bottles, and sailed by Joy Royle from San Francisco to Sydney in 2010. Now Ben Morison, who grew up in Kenya, is hoping to engage minds in similar way with a 60ft dhow made entirely from plastic, and sealed with flip flops. “The baton has been passed on,” he says. Meanwhile, there are encouraging signs in the region. Rwanda has banned plastic bags, and Kenya has pledged to phase out plastic bags later this year after two previous unsuccessful attempts. What was the inspiration for the boat? Morison sells holidays for a living, and he one day realised the beach he was selling was not the one he saw. “Two years ago, I was on a beach in Zanzibar, and got up early for a swim,” he says. “It was just after high tide, and I found 13 separate bits of flip flop. I looked around to my left and right, and realised that all along this beach was plastic, plastic, plastic. Bottles, bottle caps, bags ... you name it, it was there. “ “You could say it was enlightened self interest,” he adds. “The elements of our
beautiful continent that help me make my living are being alarmingly degraded.” What will the boat look like? Think of a huge sailing dhow – the kind with galleons and such – and that’s pretty much what you’re going to get, except it will be made of plastic, not endangered hardwoods, such as mahogany or teak. Engineers in Mombasa are devising the optimum plastic mix to produce a boat that sails. In Lamu, Ali Skanda, who comes from a long line of dhow builders, will lead the construction, which is expected to take up to a year. Once construction is complete, the entire boat will be surfaced in plates of colourful flip flops, comprising more than 20,000 gluedtogether sandals collected from the Kenyan coast. Isn’t working with plastic difficult? Strangely enough, no. “There’s no grain to worry about, it’s possible to get different density pieces to suit different needs, and to have rigid pieces or flexible pieces as necessary,” says Morison. What is difficult, though, is extracting plastic from raw plastic waste. With seven different types of raw plastic, the trick is to find a mix that for the main structures isn’t too brittle. The planks, meanwhile, must have enough ‘give’ to go around the hull of the boat. “That process has been very hard, expensive and, at times, emotional,” says Morison. Much of the process is completely new and experimental. “We’re going to make sails from woven strands of plastic,” adds Morison. ‘Your next question is: ‘How are you going to do that?’ I don’t know.”
Will it float? Morison is dismissive of the naysayers. “It will sail,” he says. “The plastic parts have the same properties as the same parts in hardwood. In a sense, we’ve created a plastic version of the wood – a version with the same properties entirely. There is simply no reason why it wouldn’t.” Then what? The idea is to sail the dhow all the way down the east coast of Africa to Cape Town. Even for a dhow made out of wood that would be an impressive feat. “This is exploration in the sense of showing how adventurous it is possible to be with what we normally consider as ‘end of life’ waste plastic,” says Morison. “The real exploration [is] the turning of waste plastic into a pioneering sailing boat capable of an ambitious 5,000km journey.” Plastic facts: • Every year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic seep into the ocean. • In 2015, the world produced 322 million tonnes of plastic, equivalent to more than 900 State Empire buildings. • By 2015, an estimated 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic. • Plastic, when broken down, attracts toxic chemicals from decades of industrial waste. When it enters the food chain, the plastic, it is suggested, contributes to some cancers, infertility and a range of other health problems.
Source: Cleanseas.org, Plasticseas.org
NOMAD MAGAZINE APRIL 2017
DOUBLE TROUBLE ON THE BEACH Mother of twins Laura Darby Singh prepares for a family holiday for the first time since her babies were born. With small planes and mosquitoes to contend with, not to mention a husband bent on maxing out the A/C, how will she handle it?
held my breath as the plane started down the runway; the small plane jostled and I was holding my five-week-old son, Lír, on my lap, while Adam, my husband, held his twin Roran in the seat behind us. As the plane lifted into the air, I wordlessly willed Lir to refrain from letting out a ear-splitting howl. The plane broke through the clouds, and I could hear the sounds of babies crying. But they weren’t my babies! My sons suckled on their dummies, silent and peaceful. So far, so good. This trip to the coast was the big test. Adam and I are keen travellers and, while we knew the twins’ arrival would inevitably make it harder, we were determined that our new lifestyle shouldn’t change us. The early weeks of parenthood are sleepless and scary, and so I chose the most relaxing place I could think of: the Kenyan coast. Specifically, the sleepy town of Watamu, a couple of hours’ drive north of Mombasa. Adam and I had rented houses there many times in our years in Kenya, though with decidedly different objectives. Our biggest challenge
hitherto was rooting out tonic in local grocery stores to mix with the huge quantities of gin we had muled from Nairobi. All the same, most of the elements of the trip would be familiar for me, and hopefully less of a challenge when mixed with the novelty of twin travel. As we walked over the threshold of our coastal home for the week, I could feel the warm breeze melting away much of the anxiety I had been carrying around during those first early weeks as a new mother. I had felt tied to the twins - and to the house - and barely able to distinguish night from day, always listening for the cries that meant I was needed again. But everything in this Swahili coastal-style house was clean and white and tidy, and it felt like a fresh and sunny beginning. We had only a few guiding principles: don’t let the boys get too much sun during 10am-4pm, and don’t let them be outside of a mosquito net after around 6:30 or 7pm. The days flew by. We discovered an unexpected benefit to Swahili-style houses: the concrete walls do a remarkable job of containing the sounds of crying. Excellent for the other housemates, but less than ideal for evenings when we could not count on audio cues during dinner. Yes, we’d forgotten the baby monitor. Our routine wasn’t so different from Nairobi, but it felt decadent. The huge bed in our room could comfortably fit all four of us without fear of the twins getting too close to the edge or too close to smother zones, and our room had beautiful views looking out over the pool and the Indian Ocean.
After weeks with showers snatched here and there, jumping into the pool felt glorious, and I couldn’t wait to bring the boys into the pool, too. But there my composure started to slip. I fretted about whether that refreshing breeze that cooled the house would freeze the babies after a dip in the pool. After four in the afternoon, was it too cold to take them into the water? And wouldn’t they get bitten by mosquitoes? So many questions, so many fears. In seven days, the twins went into the pool only twice. So, despite the relaxing setting, lots of the trepidations of new-motherhood had followed us. Adam, excited by the prospect of air conditioning, a luxury we lack in Nairobi, would chill the room to the point where I feared the twins would die of cold. And, despite nets on both our bed and the travel cot, I harboured an almost-constant fear that the boys would catch malaria, even though in four years of holidaying on Kenya’s coast, I had never had it. Despite all that, there was something extraordinary in seeing the sunrise come up over the Indian Ocean, reflecting off the surface of the water. Even to eyes so deprived of sleep as mine, it was sparkling. The week at an end, I baulked at the idea of returning to Nairobi, but I could appreciate how well the week had gone. We had proved to ourselves that nomad life doesn’t end when parenthood begins, and we plan to take our twins around East Africa and beyond. Our babies will not only learn about adventures, but we’ll learn, too, just how adventurous we can be (or not!) with twin babies.
KEITH MACHARIA AND MUQADDAM LATIF Fresh off their first year running, Keith Macharia and Muqaddam Latif, the guys behind contemporary clothing brand M+K Nairobi, sit down to share the story of their journeys - both professional and physical - and a few of the places that captured their heart.
Keith: When travelling, Muqaddam is very curious and observant. We’ve worked together for over a year now and it’s just been us, so we’ve reached a point where we’re looking out together. Muqaddam: We travelled on holiday to Diani a few months ago. It was the first time travelling with a friend, and that was a really nice experience. I also liked seeing Keith in his territory and not working.
PHOTO: TATIANA KARANJA
A really special place for me in Kenya is Nanyuki, where my Dad worked for 10 years. I’ve been going there since I was a child so it’s been interesting to see it develop over the years. And then Berlin, which has this creative energy and contrasts of high end and hippy and is like the world shrunk because you get everyone from everywhere. Keith: Diani is really special for me, and New York: the mix of people, the freedom, the art, the humanity, the casualness and also the high end-ness. And then there’s Kitale, which is where my Mum and her family are from. When I think of the genesis of my mother and me, I think of Kitale: the country life, the fresh cow’s milk in the morning with weetabix. My Mum and her sister were very close so there
was this very nurturing feminine energy and a visceral maternal energy. I’m a pretty thorough and a minimal packer. I’ll have good sunblock, good face cream, and a good book - currently a Nadine Gordimer collection of short stories and a cashmere sweater. Muqaddam: I’ve never forgotten my camera. I’m a very slow reader, but I do find inspiration from this photographer (Gab Scanu) from Sydney on Instagram who
takes drones and takes aerial photographs of various cities. If I could pick a dream destination and travel partner, I would pick Meryl Streep and would go to Rio de Janeiro and lie in the sun and just laugh away. I’d pick her up in Paris, where we’d have nice coffee and pastries and then fly down to Rio. Keith: I’d take Audrey Hepburn to the Amalfi Coast in Italy, where we’d have lots of gelato, lots of sun, lots of dancing, and lots of cotton basics. As told to Wanjiku Mungai
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